DAVE OWENS: Can the Zimmerman Case Teach the Sporting World a Lesson?
Dave Owens, Special to The Informer | 8/7/2013, 1:30 p.m.
NBA Commissioner David Stern implemented a dress code policy at the beginning of the 2005-2006 season to combat image problems throughout the league. The dress code banned a lot of clothing associated with hip-hop culture and young African-American males.
The ruling rubbed some black players and fans the wrong way. What was the message that was being sent? Does hip-hop style symbolize unprofessionalism, negativity, or even danger? In the case of the NBA, it would appear the commissioner was saying, to a degree, yes.
But don’t blame Stern, as difficult as it is to accept, he made a decision based upon a belief held by many. Society has been bombarded by imagery that impacts how we think about certain things before we fully know the story.
That imagery slants our views whether we realize it or not. In my travels I’ve come across many who come to expect positive stories in northern Virginia, and not-so-positive ones in Prince George’s County and the District. Sad.
It’s human to feel a connection to something that looks like you. But it takes true compassion to try to find connectivity with something foreign.
I can’t help but wonder how differently things would have turned out that night in Florida had George Zimmerman approached Trayvon Martin with a different mindset. What if he asked Martin, “Hey bro, do you need help?” Or, “Are you lost?” Or, "I’m part of the neighborhood watch, can I give you a ride somewhere out of this rain?” Would things have ended better? One would hope.
But I also can’t help but think the incident served as a stark reminder for all of us to check ourselves. Do we stereotype in our reporting? Only individuals themselves know that for sure, but hopefully we’re all taking inventory and making changes if necessary.